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Energy forecast for the rest of the century

A quantitative (out)look at the future of energy

World energy consumption and resources: a plausible outlook for the rest of the century. The numbers you should know before you venture to talk about energy, let alone to take decisions...

A talk delivered at MIT by Prof. Gian Paolo Beretta (Università di Brescia, Italy) during IAP on Friday, Jan.11, 2008, Room 6-120, 9:00-10:30 am, 50 min lecture followed by 30 min of open discussion.

Abstract: By discussing (1) historical data on world energy consumption, (2) current data on proved and presumed energy resources on our planet, (3) general correlations between per capita energy consumption in different countries and their levels of social and economic development, and (4) plausible forecasts of population growth and technological development, the lecture develops a forecast for the energy needs of the rest of the XXI century. It goes on to propose a plausible evolution of the mix of primary resources that human kind will consume to meet such forecasted global energy needs. By comparing the projected primary consumptions for the rest of the century with proved and presumed primary energy reserves, it concludes that we are not going to run short of energy for a very long while. The problem therefore will not be scarcity of either oil, gas, coal or nuclear fuels. Rather, what concern us is the carbon dioxide release scenario which emerges from this very plausible forecast. The amounts of fossil-fuel related CO2 we will release during this century, will be about 8/3 of the global amounts we released during the XX century, and are likely to cause a global temperature increase of 1.6°C on top of the 0.6°C already occurred. Complexity and actual dimensions of the global energy problem are emphasised, to note that out-of-context local energy policies are hardly effective. The talk ends with a comparison between electric battery vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, to underline the need and importance of honest and accurate well-to-wheel and energy-life-cycle calculations to support decisions as to which technologies to favor and subsidize.

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Updated 8 years ago

January 30, 2008 12:10
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